JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Thousands of Israelis have been flocking to Qatar for a unique opportunity to see a country which has no diplomatic relations with Israel and to participate in the festive atmosphere of the soccer World Cup tournament taking place in the country. Many had illusions that they would be able to break the ice with Arabs and that soccer mania would unite them even with citizens of regimes which support Israel’s sworn enemies (such as Qatar itself) or call for its destruction (Iran).Join our WhatsApp group
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However these illusions have been repeatedly dashed as locals constantly shun Israelis and openly express their malevolence towards Israel. Even those from countries who have diplomatic relations with Israel repeat Palestinian mantras about Israel and want no discussion with Israelis, who find themselves increasingly isolated.
In one incident, former Israeli soccer legend Eli Ohana, who now serves as a sports commentator, took a lift with a Qatari policeman. Initially identifying himself as an Israeli, Ohana soon realized that he would do better identifying himself as Portuguese, and the policeman confided in him that if he had really been Israeli “I would have taken you back and dropped you where you were before.”
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Another Israeli commentator, Raz Shechnik, described how awful he felt while attending the tournament: “We feel hated, enveloped in hostility, unwelcome. What did an initially friendly Qatari tell us when we told him we were from Israel: ‘I want to say welcome but you are really not welcome. Get out of here as fast as possible.’ Just like that, straight out. And he is supposedly a host and not some Lebanese passerby.”
Shechnik said that only Saudis treated him civilly and all the other Arabs were so hostile that he started identifying as a journalist from Ecuador. In one instance when he interviewed an Israeli who spoke Hebrew, Pro- Palestinians gathered behind him with flags and menacing statements.
Shechnik said that for the first time he realized that the conflict was not just between leaders and governments. “I suddenly realized how much the hatred is ingrained in people on the street. How much they want to erase us from the earth, how much everything connected to Israel arouses such hostility.”
Tunisian fans wave “Free Palestine” flag during game with Australia